September 2, 2008

Open Letter to the Mythbusters

Dear Adam, Jamie, Kari, Tori, and Grant,

Although, yes, I have proclaimed my love of Mythbusters in the past, I wanted to especially commend you on your excellent Moon Hoax episode. But more specifically, I wanted to thank you for all your efforts, not just to debunk myths...but in also help teaching people to think critically.

A few months ago, during a jobless period, I actually found myself watching Fox's rather inferior clone of Regis & Kelly (Hey, I was desperate, and Oprah was a rerun. I'm not proud.) But they had someone who cited your testing of gas mileage and keeping car windows open, and proclaimed that you guys "did it wrong."

But your team does it right - unlike, say, Penn and Teller, you don't take the moral high ground. Your reliance on the scientific method - of performing controlled experiments, of questioning your own assumptions - is a skill that is barely used in our culture. When you have a culture that promotes shows like Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? (which suggests that most people aren't - or at least, aren't smart enough to avoid public humilation on television) or Deal or No Deal (which seems like Jeopardy for the inarticulate).

For all of our talk about valuing education, as a culture - in all honesty, we do not. Granted, there are exceptions to the rule (I know several people who believe the Internet revolves around them...and quite frankly, who take every opportunity to remind us how wonderful they are), but we value "commonality". We value "normalcy." In a perfect world, the Bad Astronomer would have tons of media spotlight...and Perez Hilton would be, well, a relative nobody.

Am I being mean spirited? A little. But the five of you do what very few do - make learning fun, make it interesting, and more importantly - make it cool to be smart.

And as someone who has put up with a lot of hassle over being educated, it's heartening to know that there is an increasing movement of skepticism, rational inquiry, and most importantly - a refusal to pander to baser impulses.

Thanks for your hard work, and keep making more episodes...and blowing stuff up. I like the explosions as well.

Your pal,

P.S. If Kari has a twin sister who's single, please give her my e-mail. Thanks.

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